ISAM (Indexed Sequential Access Method) is a file management system developed at IBM that allows records to be accessed either sequentially (in the order they were entered) or randomly (with an index). Each index defines a different ordering of the records. An employee database may have several indexes, based on the information being sought. For example, a name index may order employees alphabetically by last name, while a department index may order employees by their department. A key is specified in each index. For an alphabetical index of employee names, the last name field would be the key.
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ISAM was developed prior to VSAM (Virtual Storage Access Method) and relational databases.